The NFC North is up next on our division-by-division wrap up of the NFL Draft. Last year, this division had three teams with 10 wins or more, and during the draft it had three teams that came away very pleased, which should make this season quite interesting. Here’s how the NFC North teams graded out in the draft compared to one another:
1. Minnesota – The Vikings are the clear winner of this division, and had arguably the best draft in the league. Not only did Minnesota have three first-round picks, but they also drafted three players in the 20’s that easily could have been top 10-15 picks. The addition of defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson gives the Vikings a whole lot of talent that few teams in this draft can match.
The Vikings didn’t have a lot of mid-round picks, but they took linebacker Gerald Hodges in the fourth round, which should give them another player that can start. In the later rounds, Minnesota added depth at the line of scrimmage and a punter in Jeff Locke that should help them on special teams. When all was said and done, the Vikings made out very well with most of their nine picks, but the talent and value they added in the first round was overwhelming and gives them one of the best draft classes around.
2. Detroit – The Lions didn’t have nearly as good of a draft as the Vikings, but they did well, getting help at the line of scrimmage early and under-rated skill players late. They took a bit of a risk on Ziggy Ansah with the fifth overall pick because he’s a hit-or-miss prospect, but they’ve got good defensive tackles in place and they drafted Devin Taylor in the fourth round, so Ansah walks into a good situation and should have the people around him in Detroit to help him succeed. The offensive line got help from third round pick Larry Warford, who is more akin to second-round talent and should have no trouble starting right away.
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In the later rounds, Detroit added a tall wide receiver in Corey Fuller, a versatile running back in Theo Riddick, and a solid tight end in Michael Williams; none will stand out, but they will help out quarterback Matthew Stafford. The one questionable pick that the Lions made, which keeps their draft class from standing out more, is taking cornerback Darius Slay in the second round. Slay has some injury concerns and was quite a reach in the second round, and after taking a risk in the first round, this pick becomes all the more questionable; although the Lions saved their draft by making wise and safe choices the rest of the way.
3. Green Bay – The Packers loaded up on picks with 11, and although they addressed most of their needs, they didn’t add enough impact players, which keeps them behind Detroit on this list. First round pick Datone Jones should help their defensive line, as will fifth round pick Josh Boyd, but there’s no guarantee those two players will lead to a significant increase in production.
There’s no doubt that Green Bay needed a running back, and Eddie Lacy was an absolute steal in the second round, but the Packers didn’t need to draft another running back in the fourth round, as their offense revolves around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, so the role of running backs is never going to be that big. Other than running back and the defensive line, the Packers added two offensive linemen in the middle rounds, two linebackers in the late rounds, and two wide receivers in the late rounds; however, the roles of all of those players are unclear, as none of them stand out as potential playmakers. Considering how many picks Green Bay had in the draft, they didn’t make the kind of impact on their roster that would be expected.
4. Chicago – The Bears finish last in this division in part because they only had six picks, but also because they used half of those picks on linebackers. In Chicago’s defense, linebacker was their biggest need entering the draft, but the combination of Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and Cornelius Washington may not be able to make the kind of impact at that position they need, especially with the loss of Brian Urlacher.
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The Bears may have been better off taking a chance on either Alec Ogletree or Manti Te’o with their first round pick, or getting more of a sure thing in Arthur Brown with their second-round pick. First-round pick Kyle Long should be able to help the offensive line immediately, but the Bears could have picked up a comparable player later in the draft, so drafting him in the first round instead of a linebacker was a questionable decision. With so few picks and such mismanagement of the picks they did have, the Bears are the clear losers in the draft among teams in the NFC North.